20 Interesting Facts about Mongolia

April 17th, 2014

Mongolian_Flag

Mongolia lies in central Asia between Siberia on the north and China on the south. It is a land full of vast emptiness, nearly twice the size of Eastern Europe and with a population of 3,226,516 (2013 est.), it is the least populous country in the world. It is slightly larger than Alaska. The name Mongol comes from a small tribe whose leader, Ghengis Khan, began a conquest in the 13th century that would eventually encompass an enormous empire stretching from Asia to Europe, as far west as the Black Sea and as far south as India and the Himalayas. After his death the empire was divided into several powerful Mongol states, but these broke apart in the 14th century. The Mongols eventually retired to their original steppe homelands and in the late 17th century came under Chinese rule of the Manchu dynasty which divided Mongolia into Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia.

Mongolia won its independence in 1921 with Soviet backing and a communist regime was installed in 1924. The modern country of Mongolia, however, represents only part of the Mongols’ historical homeland; more ethnic Mongolians live in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China than in Mongolia. The State of Mongolia was formerly known as Outer Mongolia. It contains the original homeland of the historic Mongols, whose power reached its zenith during the 13th century under Kublai Khan. Outer Mongolia became a democratic democracy in 1990. Inner Mongolia continued to remain under Chinese control.


Here are some interesting facts about this landlocked country:

1. Chinese history dating back more than 2,000 years records periodic attacks and plunders of its farmlands, villages and town by China by marauding nomadic tribes from the west, which led to its construction of the Great Wall around 200 B.C. to protect itself from incursions. But by the 14th century, the Mongolian kingdom was in serious decline, with invasions from a resurgent China and internal conflict and warfare. The Great Wall is in Inner Mongolia.

Great_Wall

2. Ulaanbaatar (population 949,000) is the capital of Mongolia and its largest city. As a nomadic city, the capital used to move three times a year! The name means “Red Hero.” A 131-foot statue of Genghis Khan sits on the steppe about an hour’s drive from Ulaanbaatar.

Genghis_Khan

3. The official language is Mongolian (90%). Other languages spoken include Turkic and Russian.

4. Based on 2011 estimates, of the total population, 97.4% are literate (96.8% male and 97.9% female). There was a time when education in Mongolia was managed by Buddhist monasteries and only monks had access to it. Today, Mongolia has 178 colleges, universities and teacher training colleges, of which 42 are public. The National University of Mongolia (established in 1942), situated in Ulaanbaatar, was the country’s first modern institution of higher education.

5. The Ministry of Science, Technology, Education and Culture (MSTEC) is the central administrating body that formulates nationwide education policy and sets the standard for each level of formal education beginning with nursery education through university higher education.

6. Mongolia has a parliamentary system of government. The current president of Mongolia, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, attended both the University of Colorado at Boulder and Harvard University in the U.S.

Tsakhiagiin_Elbegdorj
President Tsakhiaglin Elbegdorj

7. The ethnic makeup of the people is: 94.9% Mongol (predominantly Khalkha), 5% Turkic (of which Kazak is the largest group), and 0.1% other (including Chinese and Russian).

8. Religion: 53% Buddhist Lamaist, 3% Islam, 2.2% Christian, 2.9 % Shamanist, 0.4% other, 38.6% none (2010 est.)

9. Mongolia’s natural resources include: oil, copper, molybdenum, tungsten, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, wolfram, fluorspar, gold, silver, iron.

10. Mongolia’s agriculture includes: wheat, barley, vegetables, forage crops, sheep goats, cattle, camels, and horses.

11. Mongolia stands an average of 5,800 feet above sea level.

Mongolian_Mountains

12. Despite its landlocked status, Mongolia has many salt lakes. Mongolian lakes and rivers contain more than fifty unique fish species.

13. Mongolia has the oldest National Park in the world. Lying just South of Ulaanbaatar the Bogd Khan National Park dates its origin to 1778 — it predates Yellowstone by over 100 years. Established by the Mongolian government in 1778, it was originally chartered by Ming Dynasty officials in the 1500s as an area to be kept off limits to extractive uses, protected for its beauty and sacred nature.

Bogd_Khan_National_Park
Bogd Khan National Park

14. The Gobi Desert, the largest in Asia and the fifth largest in the world, is in Mongolia. The Gobi was once a sea and now filled with marine fossils. Roy Chapman Andrews made the first discovery of dinosaur eggs in the Gobi. His exploits inspired the creation of Indiana Jones. Many dinosaur fossils still lie exposed.

Gobi_Desert

15. Genghis Khan could not read or write, but he commissioned the first Mongolian writing system – the Mongolian script. Since the Soviet period, Mongolians have used the Cyrillic script. In Mongolian, the verb comes last. If you want to know whether a Mongolian loves or hates you, you have to wait till the end of the sentence!


script

16. Mongol Khuumii or throat singing involves producing two simultaneous tones with the human voice.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0djHJBAP3U

17. The three most popular sports are horse racing, archery, and Mongolian wrestling.

Mongolian_Wrestling

18. Animals native to Mongolia include:

a) Snow leopards: quarter of the world’s population of snow leopards live in Mongolia.

snow_leopard

b) The two-humped camel: survives temperatures from minus to plus fifty degrees Celsius!

camel

c) The Mongolian Takhi horse is the last wild horse in the world. Mongolians do not name their horses; they refer to them by color.

Takhi_Horse

and,

d) Eagles which are kept as pets by nomads. The Kazakh minority hunt with them.

Mongolian_Eagle

19. Mongolia’s diet is primarily meat and dairy products. The local alcoholic drink is airag, fermented mare’s milk.

20. In the streets of Ulaanbaatar you’ll find a large number of so-called MobiPhones. These are wireless phones operated by phone vendors who charge users 100 tugriks per minutes. The phones are about two times the size of a regular phone but you’ll see them at small kiosks around the city.

Bonus fun fact:
When walking down a street in a Mongolian town or city if you accidentally bump into a person or brush past them, don’t be surprised if the other person reaches for your hand. Go ahead and shake their hand or even just touch it to apologize and express that it was indeed an accident and not intentional. The same gesture applies if your leg accidentally hits someone else’s under the table. Remember to shake hands!

Sources:

http://www.mongolia-travel-guide.com/mongolia-facts.html#ixzz2yz0Oztou

http://www.factmonster.com/country/mongolia.html

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mg.html

http://listverse.com/2013/10/10/10-amazing-facts-about-the-mongols/

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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UNITED KINGDOM: 6 Facts about the New GCSE Grading System

April 10th, 2014

students

When I was a secondary student in the UK, we were preparing ourselves in Form V for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Examinations at the Ordinary Level and the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) Examinations. Several years later, when I returned to the UK as a member of a U.S.-based research group, we gathered data and information on the sweeping changes that ended the GCE O’levels and CSEs and introduced the GCSEs and a new tier of exams known as Advanced Subsidiary that were introduced in concert with the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level examinations. Soon, the system will undergo another series of changes and this time it is a shake-up of the GCSE grade system as well as the content of the examinations. Starting in 2015, students in Form IV/year 10 will be subject to a new grading system. A key goal of the new grading system is to offer more differentiation, especially among the highest achievers and the large number of students who hover in the middle grades.

Under the new system, students will be graded on a numerical nine-point scale replacing the current seven-point A*-G grading system. In the new system, nine will be the top grade and one will be the lowest. The main goal of these reforms is according to a post in The Guardian “to bring England’s exam benchmark up to the level of students in the world’s leading economies such as China, as measured in the international Pisa education survey.”

Here are some key points, dry that may be, that are being considered for the new grading system:

1. The changes will be introduced starting in From IV or Year 10 in September 2015 and the first examinations under the new system will be held in summer 2017.

2. New GCSEs in England language, English literature and Mathematics will be the first set of subjects introduced and graded under the new system, with more new subjects to follow in September 2016.

3. The boundary for the new grade five will be set at about half to two thirds of a GCSE grade higher than the current requirement for a grade C.

4. The new grade four will correspond to the current grade C. Under the new system middle and top performing candidates will be better distinguished as they will be spread among six different grades (four up to nine), and not the present four (C up to A*).

5. Under consideration is equating the new grade seven boundary to the current Grade A baseline which provides three top grade bands instead of two and keeping Grade 9 as a supergrade for exceptional performance.

6. Students receiving a grade one in the new GCSEs will be at the same achievement level as those with a grade F or G in the current system.

For more information on the new GCSE grading system, please visit The Guardian’s post on this link: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/apr/03/gcse-grading-system-shakeup-teachers.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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World Music Teaches You Everything

April 3rd, 2014

World_Music
Music tells the stories of our world

I majored in Humanities as an undergraduate because it was broad-based and I could take many courses, from California Geography to Entomology to history, philosophy, languages and literature. Later, I took an MA in Comparative Literature for similar reasons: I could read the great writers from around the world, learning from epistolary novels (novels of letters e.g. Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther). Historical novels, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and a lot of French writers (favorites were Balzac, Stendhal, and Flaubert). You learn about 19th century Paris from reading Balzac. You learn about Napoleon from reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, 19th century England from Dickens, psychology from Flaubert. You learn so many things about history, sociology, and especially psychology, human behavior, dreams, our collective aspirations, longing, the whole panoply of human existence.

The same holds true for world music. You learn about geography, something Americans could use more knowledge about. I am quite knowledgeable about African history because of my fondness for its huge variety of music. Additionally, I know all about Cape Verde, for instance, because I love its music and met and interviewed Cesaria Evora many times. Now I can tell anybody about where it is–300 miles off the coast of Senegal. In 2 weeks, I’m actually going to Cape Verde for the Atlantic Music Expo and Kriol Jazz Festival. I’m really looking forward to it.

Because music is such a basic expression in all cultures, it necessarily teaches us about those cultures: again, history, psychology, anthropology, geography, customs, mores, everything.

I say don’t confine yourself to just one kind of music. Like all the varieties of food we can now enjoy, why just eat one kind? World music is about exploration, finding joy and delight. Why deprive ourselves of such valuable lessons? For me it has enriched my life beyond measure, which is why I’ve been a world music cheerleader for the past 30 years.

toms

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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ACEI turns 20 today!

April 1st, 2014

20thAnniversary

A message from the founder of ACEI President & CEO, Ms. Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert:



“Twenty years ago on this day in 1994, ACEI opened its doors and has since been serving the international education and student community. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our friends and colleagues at U.S. colleges, universities, state regulatory boards, and the international students and immigrant community. ACEI has survived the numerous economic highs and lows, political events that affected immigration policies. We are convinced our success and strength is a result of our organization’s overarching mission of adhering to standards and best practice, complete customer satisfaction and our team’s commitment to provide service that is impeccable from start to finish. We constantly seek ways to improve what we are doing in order to satisfy the needs of our clients and bring ACEI to a new level. We are glad to be one of the market leaders in credential evaluations. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s support and look forward to many more years of success. Thank you.”

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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International Credential Evaluations: Standards and Best Practices

March 27th, 2014

Paperwork

Throughout the years, several U.S. international education individuals and organizations generously applied themselves in establishing guidelines for applied research and the evaluation of international educational credentials, while at the same time outlining the professional ethics and principles for the profession. Since its inception, the development of Standards and Best Practices has been the mission of the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE). We are committed to addressing the needs of the international credential evaluation profession and the first association to publish and enforce consistent standards for its members.

What is AICE?

The only U.S. membership association concerned primarily with:

1. ensuring quality assurance in international credential evaluations.
2. setting standards and offers certification for international credential evaluation professionals.
3. providing best practice guidelines and training for its members.

The Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) was created in 1998 as a non-profit organization in order to address known deficiencies in the international credential evaluation marketplace through the adoption of ethical standards. AICE works to safeguard the interests of both international students and the newly-arrived immigrants in the U.S. as well as schools and institutions of higher learning, professional licensing and regulatory boards and employers, through the promotion of ethical, standards-based international academic credential evaluations.

AICE’s purposes are to:

1. Develop standards of ethical practice pertaining to the evaluation of international academic credentials and conversion of these studies into their U.S. equivalent.
2. Develop best practices and training for its members to serve more proficiently those with international credentials seeking admission to U.S. educational institutions, employment, or professional certification with a regulatory board.
3. Establish a framework through which its members can become certified.

AICE takes pride in being the only U.S. Association to publish and enforce standards for expert qualifications, methodologies and reporting outcomes in international credentials evaluation. The Association’s members provide U.S. equivalents of international educational documents that are utilized by institutions of higher education, USCIS, state/local/national government departments, personnel departments such as teacher credentialing and other employers. AICE members are responsible for developing and implementing the ethics and correct practices required by a profession that touches the individual lives of each of our clients as well as our society as a whole. AICE’s Standards are posted on the website’s home page. www.aice-eval.org.

AICE Members:

Each member of AICE must submit to a rigorous application process to indicate that it fulfills the Association’s standards for expertise, methodology and documentation. Evaluations completed by organizations and individuals that meet AICE standards are accepted as reliable and complete within the field of applied comparative education.

AICE members assist those with education from abroad who are seeking residency and employment, professional licensure or further education in the United States. Individuals with foreign education are referred to AICE members by immigration attorneys, managers and educators who need information. AICE member evaluators provide practical and up-to-date knowledge on foreign ministries of education, institutions of education, educational areas of study, diplomas and transcripts.

AICE-certified member organizations are: Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute. (ACEI); American Education Research Corporation (AERC); Foreign Credential Evaluations, Inc.; Globe Language Services, Inc. International Evaluation Services; Lisano International; SDR Educational Consultants.

A major part of AICE’s mission is to provide the general public with access to trustworthy credential evaluation research and experts. AICE members satisfy this mission by meeting the Association’s requirements for expertise, evaluation methodology and thorough evaluation report by following stringent guidelines in the preparation of credential evaluations.  We will continue our collaborative efforts with our members as well as those organizations who share the same mission.

David A. Robinson, Ph.D.
President
AICE
www.aice-eval.org

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8 things to know about Nowruz (Persian New Year) Celebrations

March 20th, 2014

setting
We are going to share the blog we posted in 2012 on the Persian/Iranian celebration of Now-Ruz with a few new additions.

Vernal Equinox
The celebration of Now-Ruz (New Day), takes effect at the exact astronomical beginning of Spring, known as the vernal equinox. Now-Ruz is celebrated today on March 20th and has been celebrated for nearly 3000 years by Iranians. It is an ancestral festivity marking the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. Its rituals and traditions date back to Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion that existed until 7th century A.D. before the Arab invasion and the enforcement of Islam.

Nowruz: An official UN observance
The United Nations has proclaimed Nowruz an official UN observance because it promotes peace and solidarity, particularly in families.  The day also focuses reconciliation and neighborliness, contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities.

National Holiday
Now-Ruz celebrations last for 13 days. As a child growing up in Iran, Now-Ruz meant a school holiday lasting for 13 days. In fact, most businesses throughout the country would shut down for the duration of Now-Ruz. Everyone was on holiday!

Spring Cleaning
In preparation for Now-Ruz, Iranians embark on the spring-cleaning of their homes, even make or buy a new set of clothes (my brother and I loved getting a new outfit or two), and bake pastries in anticipation of visiting guests when gifts are exchanged and feasts enjoyed.

Chahar-Shanbeh Soori Fire Festival
The rituals surrounding the celebration of Now-Ruz are rich with symbolism and ceremony. They begin on the last Wednesday of winter with Chahar-Shanbeh Soori (Eve of Wednesday), a fire-jumping festival, where people create small bonfires in their neighborhoods and jump over them as the sun sets.
firejumping
Celebrants taking a leap of faith during Chahar-Shanbeh Soori

Parents join in with their children and jump over the flames inviting happiness and abundance while releasing and letting go of darkness and negativity by chanting: “Offer me your lovely red hue and take away my sickly pallor.” With fire signifying light (day), the symbol of all that is good, and dark (night), the unknown and all that is evil, celebrants partaking in the fire festival look forward to the arrival of spring bringing longer days and new beginnings.

Minstrels, Troubadours and Mischief-making
As a child growing up in Iran, I remember the minstrels or troubadours, known as Haji Firuz, who sang and danced in the streets dressed in bright red and yellow satin poufy pants and shirts, spreading good cheer and bringing merriment to neighborhoods.

haji
Boys and men in costumes as Haji Firuz

Another tradition, somewhat resembling the trick-or-treat of Halloween, included young men who disguised themselves as women under chadors (long veils) and went from street to street banging on pots and pans, shaking tambourines and raising raucous. All this was done in jest as seeing a boy or young man in such a disguise invited laughs and more laughs.

Haft-Seen Display
haft_seen

A major feature of Now-Ruz is the preparation of “Haft-Seen,” (seven “S’s”); a special display of seven specific offerings each beginning with the letter “S” in Farsi. Typically, the “Haft-Seen” includes the following: “seeb” or apple (promotes beauty and good health), “seer” or garlic (wards off bad omen), “samanou” (a sweet pudding, symbolizing affluence), “sabze” or wheat-germ (representing rebirth) grown in a flat dish a few days before the New Year, “sek-keh” or coin, preferably gold (for wealth and abundance), “senjed” (dried fruit from lotus tree, symbolizing love), and “somagh” or sumac (color of sunrise). In addition, there will also be a mirror (symbol for the sky), a goldfish in a bowl (life force), lit candles symbolizing fire and promoting enlightenment, colored eggs (symbol of fertility corresponding to the mother earth), sweets to spread sweetness and a book of poems by Hafiz or Rumi.

Sizdah Bedar (Out with the 13th) Festivities
The Now-Ruz festivities end on the 13th day known as “Sizdah Bedar” (out with the 13th), and it is celebrated outdoors. Staying indoors is seen as a bad omen and families spend the day outside in parks and in the countryside near streams, rivers, and lakes, enjoying a festive picnic. The “sabze” or plate of wheat-germ that was the centerpiece of the Haft-Seen is taken on this picnic so that young unmarried women wishing for a husband will tie a knot between the green shoots (symbolizing a marital bond) and toss it into running water.
sizdah_bedar
Images of Sizdah-Bedar of the past and present

About 300 million people worldwide celebrate Nowruz, with traditions and rituals particularly strong in the Balkans, the Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions, the Caucasus, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.

Despite Iran’s Islamic Republic’s attempts to do away with Now-Ruz, calling it un-Islamic and pagan, the ancient tradition of celebrating the arrival of Spring continues in Iran. Now-Ruz is a reminder that the darkness is fleeting: the day will soon be longer than the night; and with the arrival of a new day, change for the better, is in the near horizon.

Happy Now-Ruz!

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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Celebrating Spring

March 13th, 2014

spring

With nervous pleasure,
The tulips are receiving
A spring rain at dusk
––Richard Wright

Cultures around the world celebrate spring as a time of renewal, healing, and rebirth, moving from the darkness of winter to the much-anticipated light of spring. Whatever form of celebration this takes, it is a time of new beginnings and hope. A time to celebrate life.

Original peoples were in rhythmic harmony with natural cycles, and created seasonal festivals, to honor their connection and dependency on the natural world. It seems only obvious then, that people who later came to believe in dying and returning gods–– synchronized their celebrations of birth, fertility and life, with those of the original people, often at the beginning of Spring, the Vernal Equinox.

The word Equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), equal night, meaning a moment in time when the earth’s axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the sun, but is aligned directly with the poles, and day and night are about equal in length. It is a global time of perfect balance.

Original people the world over understood that a state of balance was necessary for well-being and harmony, and knew that imbalance in nature or with the self was the source of illness or disease. To the Yoruba people of West Africa, “…disease is seen as a disruption of our connection to the earth.”

Spring is regarded as a time for healing, and cleansing, a much-anticipated occasion heralded by the appearance of tiny green buds, the first flowers poking through the still cold ground, and of course the winter-absent sounds of birds.

Birdsong and flowers are two mythically powerful avatars of spring in most cultures worldwide, and therefore it is not surprising that both are honored ritually in connection with celebrations of spirit, and of dying and returning gods.

Birdsongs

About three weeks ago, I was happily surprised when I realized that once again, I was hearing the sounds of birds. I had been tuned to a different, internal biorhythm––Winter, and had not even realized the sound was missing, and it made me walk around smiling all day.

At just about the same time, I read a poignant and bittersweet article titled” How to build a Perfect Refugee Camp” in the Sunday Feb.13, 2014 New York Times Magazine. It is a about the lives of Syrian refugees in Kilis, a refugee camp in Turkey near the Syrian border

One of many moving details that ran throughout the story was the presence and implied importance of Canaries in cages. They were photographed everywhere in their cages, inside and outside of most of the container dwellings, and the author often noted their presence, but without a real explanation.

I found that to be fascinating and have been trying to find information that could explain the origins of the tradition, of keeping Canaries, if in fact it was one…or is it rather a result of the heartbreaking situation they find themselves in. I began to think that perhaps the birds are there for another reason. A healing reason.

The sound of a songbird is at the same time elevating and calming, reassuring. We feel more at ease somehow, which means our lives are just flowing better, and we like that.

If some of us are lucky enough to hear the songs of birds interrupt and rise above the noise of a city or the noise of traffic, consciously or unconsciously, we feel better.

Julian Treasure explained that in his recent Ted Talk: The 4 ways Sound Affects Us,”… Most people find the sound of birdsong reassuring. There’s a reason for that. Over hundreds of thousands of years, we’ve learned that when the birds are singing,” things are safe.” It’s when they stop–– that you need to be worried.” Maybe it is a tradition based on the healing wisdom of the natural world, and as refugees themselves, perhaps these Canaries sing to bring about harmonious balance––a beautiful coping mechanism that calms everyone down, giving them a reassuring space to heal from the trauma of war.

Atahualpa Yupanqui, the famous Argentine folk musician, was quoted as saying,” Music is a torch with which to see where beauty lies, “ and the music of singing birds is certainly that. Perhaps that is why the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians in California, among many native tribes in California, chose to call their very important singing rituals, Birdsongs. These songs are very important to their cultures, and are meant to be shared in social gatherings. The songs tell stories, which unfold in a series of songs about migration, and life lessons. Both men and women participate, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of rattles.

Flower Fusion

The Yaqui Indians of the Sonoran Desert revere flowers, and view them as manifestations of souls. “Haisa sewa?” is a Yaqui greeting among men, which means,” How is the flower?”

In the springtime, the Yaqui perform their sacred duty of ensuring the existence of the world, by dancing the Deer Dance in Lenten and Easter rituals. After the Conquest, the Yaqui fused their original beliefs, synchronizing them to the Catholic Holidays, ensuring the survival of their ways. The deer dancers represent the spirit of the sacred deer who lives in the Flower World, one of the five worlds of Yaqui belief. Their rituals are conducted to perfect these worlds, and eliminate the harm done to them.

During these spring rituals, the sacred deer returns to this world, and the songs of the deer singer, are the voices of the deer, bringing mystical messages from their world. The return of the Deer spirit is syncretic with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, returning on Easter with divine messages from heaven.

For the ancient Nauhua people, Xochiquetzalli, the goddess of flowers and love, was the mother of their sacred dying and returning god Quetzalcoatl, or Kukulkan, the plumed serpent. As a dual-natured god, Kukulkan’s feathers represent his heavenly abode, and his serpent body allows him to travel on the earth. The Quetzal bird’s iridescent green plumes were used in royal costume and ceremonial garb for kings and priests.

The great pyramid El Castillo, or Kukulcán’s Pyramid, built in the center of Chichen Itza in Mexico, displays an astronomically symbolic reenactment, of the return of Kukulcán, as he descends to earth on the Vernal Equinox. An unusual shadow creeps down the northern stairway, appearing as a serpent, which finally unites with its stone head, which sits in the light at the pyramid’s base.

Tonantzin, Xochiquetzalli, and the Virgin of Guadalupe are all aspects of the great mother goddess of fertility, of life, and creation.

The ancient goddess Xochiquetzalli, (Flowery Plumage), gave rise to the pre-Hispanic belief in a “flower-woman”, who represented Mother Earth and fertility. She is celebrated on the Friday before Palm Sunday, in the Flor más Bella del Ejido (Most Beautiful Flower of the Ejido or Field) pageant, honoring the beauty of Mexican indigenous women, held in Xoxhimilco, Mexico. In the Náhuatl dialect, Xoxhimilco means,” place of the flowery orchard.”

In about 1570, Friar Diego Durán, who grew up in Texcoco, described the celebrations of Xochiquetzalli, ”… The dance they most enjoyed was the one in which they crowned and adorned themselves with flowers. A house of flowers was erected on the main pyramid . . .. They also erected artificial trees covered with fragrant flowers where they seated the goddess Xochiquetzalli… On this day they were as happy as could be, the same happiness and delight they feel today on smelling any kind of flower, whether it have an agreeable or a displeasing scent, as long as it is a flower. They become the happiest people in the world smelling them…”

As Christians honor the Virgin of Guadalupe with roses, and the Virgin of Candelaria with marigolds, the Nahua people honored Xochiquetzalli, singing Xochicuicame, flower songs. Xochitlahtoane (flower speakers), performed publicly. The songs were about flowers or related to rituals honoring Xochiquetzal, and were a channel to invoke a deity in an individual and personal way.

The most famous flower songs were those of Hungry Coyote, a ruler, and poet in ancient Mexico. One of his songs, The Flower Tree Song was sung during this Spring celebration in honor of Xochiquetzalli. Here is an excerpt:

“…Delight, for Life Giver adorns us. All the flower bracelets, your flowers, are dancing. Our songs are strewn in this jewel house, this golden house. The Flower Tree grows and shakes, already it scatters. The quetzal breathes honey, the golden quéchol breathes honey. Ohuaya ohuaya.

You have transformed into a Flower Tree, you have emerged, you bend and scatter. You have appeared before God’s face as multi-colored flowers. Ohuaya ohuaya.

Live here on earth, blossom! As you move and shake, flowers fall. My flowers are eternal, my songs are forever: I raise them: I, a singer. I scatter them, I spill them, the flowers become gold: they are carried inside the golden place. Ohuaya ohuyaya.

Flowers of raven, flowers you scatter, you let them fall in the house of flowers. Ohuaya ohuyaya.

Happy Spring!

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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